For someone who’s trying to swallow the injustice, slings and arrows of real life, I have to say a late-night viewing of Inglourious Basterds was worth like, ten therapy sessions. (BTW, a warning: this post contains plot spoilers. But really, it won’t ruin the movie for you.)
It’s a violent, gory mess starring Brad Pitt as the head of an all-Jewish brigade on a mission to kill “Natz-ees” that imagines a very different end to WWII, and there’s something redeeming — empowering even — to see the tables turned on a history that’s already been written. We already know how WWII turned out; six million Jews and four million others were sent to gas chambers and shot in front of firing squads. And while the good guys eventually “won” the war, justice was never really served: The world never got the satisfaction of seeing Adolph Hitler strung up by his balls; he got off easy by committing suicide in the comfort of his bunker.
But to Quentin Tarantino, those are just details. He’s based a career on bloody vengeance (doesn’t the very word “vengeance” make you think of a Bible-booming Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction?) and because that’s his particular genius, he recognized that a film about badass Jews who go after Nazis with all the intelligence and calculation the Nazis hunted Jews would be brilliant: I can totally imagine Harvey Weinstein salivating all over his cigar when QT pitched it.
Sure, there have been movies that have delivered a little bit of Jewish avengement like The Boys from Brazil, and more recently Defiance, where Liev Shreiber and Daniel Craig demonstrate some major toughness chops by creating a safe haven out in the Polish forest, but there are plenty of disappointments, like Valkyrie — I mean, who gives a crap about how Tom Cruise almost assassinates Hitler?
But at last, Quentin Tarantino has delivered the ultimate Jewish revenge fantasy: Trapping the top Nazi brass in a theater, then burning it down, blowing it up and pumping the Fuhrer full of machine gun holes all at the same time.
Now, some reviewers have said that turning Jews into “sickening perpetrators” is a mistake – that this rewriting of history allows the facts of the matter to be lost. Instead we must stick to the facts, constantly and without straying, in order to rise above and heal from the atrocities:
“An alternative, and morally superior, form of “revenge” for Jews would be to do precisely what Jews have been doing since World War II ended: that is, to preserve and perpetuate the memory of the destruction that was visited upon them, precisely in order to help prevent the recurrence of such mass horrors in the future.”
Gosh, I don’t even disagree. Except that being morally superior never really protected anyone — and it certainly doesn’t deliver the visceral satisfaction of watching a fictional character hitting a really bad person with a baseball bat. Of course we must carry on as we have — educating our children and neighbors about the Holocaust, stand up where we see injustice, keep saying “Never Again.”
But we also have to cheer when someone makes a movie about Hitler finally getting the ass-kicking he always deserved.